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The Centrality of the Cross
By David A. DePra
The Cross of Jesus Christ is the central Truth of Christianity. This is exactly why Satan has tried to minimize its importance, substitute for it, or, in many places, shut it out all together. The Cross is the instrument of Satan’s defeat, the means of our freedom from the power of sin, and is the doorway to newness of life. Take away the Cross, and everything else falls.
But you see, what has happened in many places today, is that people are trying to create what only the Cross can provide. They try to do it through religion ABOUT Christ, instead of through the resurrection power OF Christ. They focus on all the benefits of newness of life in Christ Jesus – if they even care about that. Many seem totally oblivious to the fact that none of it is possible unless you first come to the Cross.
There are many churches today that NEVER preach the Cross. They invite people to Jesus, almost as if Jesus is a, "blessing machine." People are told to come to Jesus and He will solve your problems and build your life into something beautiful. They are told to become part of a ministry which loves people and serves people and provides a social outlet for everyone. And so what we have is a celebration of Jesus – and it all sounds so good and positive.
This isn’t what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches all of the positive aspects of coming to Jesus. But none of them are positive without coming to Jesus on God’s terms. And those terms are the Cross. You have to come and relinquish your old life if you want newness of life. This is not only the central Truth regarding salvation, but is a principle which governs the Christian life. All real life in Christ comes through death.
The Sad Facts
Isn’t it amazing how the moment you begin to bring in the Truth of the Cross that you are the bad guy? Yep. You are negative and critical, or so people say. "We have a wonderful church here. It is growing. Everyone is getting along, and we have some wonderful programs. And now YOU are going to preach that we have to come to the Cross, or that we have to repent of sin? We don’t want that kind of message in our church. We will lose members and money."
Don’t think such statements are never made -- even to the pastors of churches by their own congregation. They are. Many in even church leadership will not tolerate their pastor, or anyone else, messing with THEIR church. And if there is one thing that will, "mess" with your church, indeed, with your LIFE, it is the Truth of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
There is such deception in many churches today that it is heartbreaking. Everything from ugly spirits of contention, and unclean spirits of license, to the spirit of, "anything goes – all in the name of love." This is not to say that there are not many good churches that revere Christ. There are. But it starts with leadership. Where have all the leaders gone?
The Cross is Personal
The fact is, people will serve to exhaustion in their church, doing things, serving on committees, and going the extra mile for their church. But if God puts his hand on THEM personally – on their pride, spiritual position, sin, unbelief, or arrogance – most will have none of it. And if you are the one God uses to put His hand on it, you will be hated and despised. You will be the bad guy.
You might be shocked to know that this is not a condition which exists only here or there. It is widespread. Indeed, ENTIRE CHURCHES are governed by this kind of spirit. And I say this without apology: It is of Satan. The people provide the attitude. Satan uses it to do his thing.
Let’s ask: Have we forgotten what man is? Have we no consciousness of SIN in our lives? Or have we simply dismissed it as, "just being human?" Do we have any idea of what God is trying to do in this age?
Christians think that the Cross is nothing more than a doctrine we accept when we get saved. But the Cross is something we are supposed to live under all of our lives. We must pick up our Cross and follow Jesus. Furthermore, we are to grow in our grasp of what the Cross of Jesus has accomplished for us – and that will take a lifetime.
Make no question, you can trace virtually every heresy in Christianity back to a denial of the Cross. Every one of them. No wonder Satan doesn’t want the Cross in the church! It would mean the END of his plans and purposes.
The Path to Life
Jesus Christ IS the great blessing God has given us. Really, He is the only blessing. And He does want to build our lives into something beautiful. But there is NO building of our lives according to the plan and purpose of God until there is first a demolition of the life we have built. God never tells us to get the building started, and then come to Jesus, and Jesus will finish the job. Jesus is the foundation.
That is not a negative message. It is only negative to those who are perfectly comfortable with themselves in their natural, religious flesh. It is only negative to those who have never come into a consciousness of their great need. God wants to make us totally uncomfortable in ourselves so that we will run to Jesus for DELIVERANCE. And even after we are saved, we will see that we need to deepen our understanding of what happened at the Cross so that we might walk in freedom from the power of sin. We will see that the gospel really is the good news.
We have created an atmosphere in many of our churches which suggests that Jesus came to tell us we are just fine. All we need to do is believe in Him and we will be blessed. This is not only a lie, but it is the very spirit of Satan – it was the number one temptation and suggestion that we find throughout the New Testament.
The Truth is, if you are not coming to the Cross, you are not coming to Jesus. Jesus said, "Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden." We come to Him full of the energy of the flesh, telling Him what we want Him to do for us. True conversion is the result of coming to Jesus Christ in the earnest desire to be delivered from ourselves, and from our independence from God. THAT IS WHY WE COME – and if it isn’t why we are coming to Jesus, it is questionable as to whether we are actually coming.
Are we coming TO JESUS, or just coming to get blessings from Him? Some of us come to Jesus for what we can get. God wants us to give ourselves to Him.
Minimizing the Truth of the Cross is heresy. Christianity without the Cross as central is not Christianity. It is heresy.
Do we realize that when we avoid preaching the Cross that we are treating it as if it is meaningless? Paul said that the preaching of the Cross is foolishness – meaningless and silly – to those who ARE PERISHING. (I Cor. 1:18) And he said this to SAVED people.
We need to wake up. Few people even realize what is happening today. It has happened so slowly and cleverly, that it can barely be documented. The need for the Cross, and for true HOLINESS in the church today, has been minimized – turned into mere doctrine at best, and is considered politically incorrect at worst. What has been brought is the gospel of self-esteem, and the gospel of anything goes in the name of love.
Do we realize that the message of the gospel – the message of the Cross – is a confrontational message? Spoken in love, yes, but without any compromise? Do we realize that wherever the Truth is preached that it OUGHT to divide the sheep from the goats? That it ought to empty the room of anyone who doesn’t want Jesus, and it ought to be the power of salvation unto those who DO? I’ve got news: If our preaching doesn’t confront people with the Truth of the gospel, we are not servants of Jesus Christ. We are lying to people, and misrepresenting the gospel.
The Cross of Jesus Christ is the most positive message possible, because the Cross delivers us from everything negative. It is the pathway to resurrection and life. Indeed, there is no life in Christ unless we are first baptized into His death. *
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